Premier League 17/18 Week 36: Newcastle United vs West Brom Albion – Lineups, Preview and Prediction

The Magpies will try to get back to winning ways against a rejuvenated Baggies side being guided by an unbeaten manager

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15:00 BST, Saturday 28th April, St James’ Park (Newcastle, England)

West Brom are literally playing for their Premier League survival in this game as defeat will confirm their descent into next season’s Championship irrespective of other scores this weekend. A mere 2 wins from their previous 33 league games has planted the Baggies firmly on the foot of the table, 8 points from safety with only 9 points still to play for. Darren Moore has breathed new life into the club, however, and will be determined to see the club rise from the foot of the table, if not entirely out of the relegation zone.

While few expected West Brom to struggle this season, many thought Newcastle would find their return to the top-flight hard going. While they’ve had rough patches throughout this season, especially a run of 9 defeats from 11 games at the end of 2017, the Magpies are perched in the top half of the table. Rafael Benitez will take most of the credit for this, however, he could see his side slip to their first back-to-back defeats of this year if he can’t find a solution to their striker problems.

Last Time Out

Everton 1-0 Newcastle United (Premier League)

After the match had been moved to a Monday evening at the 11th hour to accommodate TV coverage, the away fans were left with a further bitter taste through a disappointing defeat. Both teams set up with a defensive mindset and proceeded to grind out an attritional display of football. 

There was only 3 shots on target in the entire game, the first of which saw Everton take the lead soon after half-time. Newcastle failed to find an extra gear upon falling behind with Islam Slimani particularly poor on his first start for the club. 

While the Magpies found no rhythm for the first 80 minutes, the final 10 was a different matter. Dwight Gayle was guilty of spurning Newcastle’s best chances but most other black and white shirted players were also guilty of falling short of their best. Despite applying pressure on Everton’s goal during the closing stages, it proved too little, too late for Newcastle who returned home empty-handed.

West Brom Albion 2-2 Liverpool (Premier League)

West Brom fought back from a two-goal disadvantage only for Liverpool’s manager to proclaim the Baggies efforts as a “useless comeback” as they claimed a draw. West Brom had been the inferior team for most of this match after a 4th-minute goal from Liverpool had left them chasing the game. When man-of-the-moment Mohamed Salah doubled their lead with less than 30 minutes remaining it seemed the result was a foregone conclusion.

West Brom’s new mentality under Moore was in strong evidence, though, firstly with Jake Livermore’s scrappy finish from a corner, then as Salomón Rondón headed home a free-kick with only 2 minutes remaining. Liverpool may have fielded a weakened team for this game but it was an impressive fightback from West Brom none-the-less.

Newcastle United Lineup

Mikel Merino has suffered a knock and will miss out this weekend along with both Jesús Gámez (ankle) and Christian Atsu (knock) who have been missing for recent matches. The choice of striker between Slimani and Gayle is likely to be the biggest decision facing Benitez, which could see the Leicester loanee given another chance to impress for the Toon.

West Brom Albion Lineup

James Morrison (Achilles) Gareth Barry (knee) and Nacer Chadli (fitness) are all still absent from West Brom’s travelling party although Jonny Evans Hal Robson-Kanu and Daniel Sturridge all return to off Moore extra choices in this weekend’s selection. He will stick with a 4-4-2 formation and is also likely to stick with the same starting lineup used in each of his previous games after his players have done him proud.

Key Battle: Islam Slimani (Newcastle United) vs Salomón Rondón (West Brom Albion)

Both teams are likely to feature a main striker who is technically good on paper and on the pitch but yet to prove themselves as an effective solution to their club’s needs. Slimani joined Newcastle on loan last January with a permanent move being touted if he can prove successful. A longer than expected recovery from injury and little playing time this season has left him looking slow and clumsy, however, this is perhaps to be expected. Having amassed only 104 minutes from his 3 appearances since New Year’s Day, he will be well motivated to improve over the Magpies final games this season.

With Daniel Sturridge waiting in the wings, or the bench more likely, Rondón will need to show why so many of West Brom’s manager’s have kept faith with the Venezuelan striker. His goal against Liverpool should be enough to see him keep his place in the starting eleven, however, his 7 league goals this season have come at a rate of 1 every 361.5 minutes on average. This 25% strike rate from his games is likely to hold him back in the long-term unless he can prove more efficient in front of goal under yet another West Brom manager.

Talking Points

Rules of engagement

Newcastle fans have seen their club’s fixtures re-arranged several times this season, notably the recent Sunday match at home to Arsenal and the appallingly late changes to their recent trip to Everton. While it seems the FA is writing their own rules regarding TV coverage as they go along, more games will soon find they’re impacted in such a way.

The money generated for the club is obviously a sweetener in the deal, however, this is yet to trickle down to the fans with season tickets who are most affected. 

An extra 32 games will be added to the next TV package due to begin the season after next. With Friday evening matches set to become more prevalent and Saturday evening (19:45ko) being approved by the Premier League club’s, weekends of football will seem much more stretched out soon.

Good or made to look good?

Since his temporary appointment almost a month ago, Darren Moore has impressed to the point of showing up the other manager’s to have helmed the Baggies this season. While Tony Pulis fell onto the sword of stiflingly unattractive football, the appointment of Alan Pardew is looking like the biggest mistake the club made for many years.

With the Baggies players not performing for a manager who said all the right things at the time of taking charge at the Hawthorns, history will look back on his stay in a similar way to his final season’s at Crystal Palace now look. With no change of personnel and only minor tweaks to the formation, Darren Moore is achieving so much more at the club. Whether this is because of his input or Pardew’s output is a debatable point, however, a combination of the two seems most likely.

Prediction: Newcastle United 2-1 West Brom Albion

All good things must end and this match could signal the end of Moore’s impressive start to management. Newcastle have looked a far better proposition at home lately and while solid, West Brom are still lacking the quality to trouble many Premier League sides. If Newcastle can score, they should win although the hard-fought nature of the 2-2 draw between these sides in November could be present again in this fixture.

(Photo Credit: Reuters/Andrew Yates)